WBG Score: 7.5/10
Player Count: How ever many you want to fit around a tablet or smart phone.
You’ll like this if you like: Treasure hunts!
Published by: XD Productions, Hachette Boardgames UK
This is a review copy. See our review policy here
Little Explorers is out later this year. At the start of December 2023 from what I can see on the pre-orders available. It comes from XD Productions, a company that seems to specialise in AR technology, not games. With Little Explorers they have fused together their knowledge of the AR world with games with the help of Hachette Board games UK it seems. The result is an intriguing experience that my family and I have found to be really rather quite captivating. Let's get it to the table/house and see how it plays.
How To Set Up Little Explorers
Inside the box are three separate stand alone missions. One themed about Dinosaurs, another pirates, and the final one Space. Perfect for any little adventurer. Pick the one you want to do and then take the five cards and one map used for this game. You will need to scan the QR code on the back of the fold out map to download the app. The game doesn't work without this and will need to download the game and then the three challenges, but then the app can work offline.
Next, someone needs to hide the five cards used in the game you chose around the house. Ideally you need to have them found in a particular sequence, the order of which seemingly can only be discovered from placing them on the map and joining up the back of the cards image to the map. They don't appear to be numbered and the rules are very light, in that, there are none! Below is all that can be found in the box in the way of rules. Although there is a brief tutorial on the app, but this doesn't talk about the rules either. However if you find and scan the wrong card it simply tells you to find another and you can come back to this one later.
You can hide the cards anywhere you like in your house, or wherever really. Obviously you don't want to make it too difficult for the children playing to find them, and like I mention above, ideally you want them found in order. We found it best to hide each one in a different room and tell the children to look in each room in a specific order.
When you are done, get the children to hold the tablet or phone you are using to play the game and click through the tutorial and start the game.
How To Play Little Explorers
The players will now walk around, trying to find the five cards. When they do find one, scan it with the device and it will either say it is the wrong one or create an AR world on the device in whatever environment you are playing in. This will begin the story of the adventure you are playing and will ask you to interact somehow with the screen. Mostly with just a few taps and swipes, but all linked very well with the animation and story.
With each game, one of the cards is cut up into a jigsaw. So you can leave this separated and challenge the people playing when they find it to piece it together before they can scan it. When all five cards are found and have been successfully interreacted with, the game will ask you to lay them all out on the map for that game, and then scan them all together. You will then enter the final challenge which again will require some minor taps and swipes on the device you are using, before rewarding you with the final animation.
The entire game will be timed so you can play over and over, trying to beat yours or other peoples times.
The game also comes with some party invites, eight for each of the three challenges. So children can invite friends round to play with them, or the whole thing can be used to organise a children's party. Each game takes around ten minutes to complete, although you can of course make that harder by hiding the cards in more tricky places, but I am not sure how much fun that is? There are three games in the box, so 30 minutes for the lot. Perfect for a kids party I would say.
Is It Fun? Little Explorers Board Game Review
The game is very simple and the interaction with the AR is still somewhat limited but the concept and experience itself is intriguing and novel enough for any child aged between 6-10 to be quite captivated by it. You need to find a delicate balance between how hard you make it to find the cards. Too easy and everything is over in minutes. Too hard and you may loose their attention. And because this part of the game is played in the real world, it is entirely up to you how you do this.
We have tried each of the three missions a few times each. Racing against each others times. My children are eight and ten, the perfect age for this. I can see us trying again a few more times, and the kids themselves playing alone now they know how to do it. They enjoy setting it up and hiding the cards around the house now, more than the actual game itself. There is some decent longevity and replayability here.
The app works pretty well, but you do need to scan each code for a good few seconds, holding the device very still for it to work, and you need good light to do this. It works better on phones that iPads we found, but the slight delay and awkwardness of this part can loose younger children's interest.
At the end of the game, the cards you found need to then be returned to the main map and place on it in order. We found some maps want the cards facing up, and others facing down. There seems to be no rhyme of reason for this, and in a timed game, working this out on the fly can be frustrating.
Minor quibbles aside, I would recommend this game to anyone who is looking to find a game for a small group of 6-10 year olds to play within a 20 minute time frame. Devices are required but this game very much brings people out of the screen and into the real world in really rather a beautiful way as you are only ever looking at the screen for a small amount of time. The experience is unique, highly interactive, and offers a lot of fun as you go.